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No Breakthrough Yet in Gang of Six Talks

The group of six bipartisan Senate Finance Committee negotiators continued to work Wednesday toward a consensus health care bill, with no breakthrough from the talks despite Chairman Max Baucus’ (D-Mont.) attempt to accelerate the effort by announcing he will mark up a bill the week of Sept. 20 with or without a deal.

The group of three Democrats and three Republicans met for an hour Wednesday afternoon, hours before President Barack Obama was scheduled to address a joint session of Congress on health care. Negotiators discussed the counterproposals they offered to the framework for a reform bill Baucus circulated over the weekend.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), one of the Democratic negotiators, said the meeting was not unlike many of the other sessions the six Senators have participated in over the last three months. Bingaman said it remains unclear if the group will reach a deal by mid- to late next week, when Baucus said he would issue the mark.

“It went fine,— he said. “We’re going through issues.—

The group is set to meet again on Thursday.

Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine) one of the GOP negotiators, said the meeting went well and that progress continues. However, she too conceded that it might be impossible for the group to reach a deal before Baucus moves ahead with a markup.

Snowe also said she would have preferred that Baucus not put a definite deadline on the bipartisan talks, although she said she did not fault the Finance chairman for doing so.

“Obviously, I think the process was somewhat accelerated with the president’s speech tonight. So, I think it’s changed the dynamic and accelerated the tempo in some ways,— she said.

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